I’ve got bright pink marks

I’ve got bright pink marks on the outside of both calves now, stigmata from my motorcycle’s tailpipes and my habit of wearing knee shorts to work. Harley guys will ride around on the interstate in a strappy T-shirt and no helmet, but they won’t wear shorts on their bikes, and I guess I can see why. The burn on my right leg is from lowering the centerstand outside the bookstore two weeks ago; I cursed and swore and almost dropped the bike. The burn on my left leg is from getting too close while gassing up last night; I cursed and swore and hopped up and down, startling a small dog across the way.


I have to admit that I feel kind of tough with the burns: they’re motorcycle accessories that you can’t order from a catalog. But burns don’t look cool, like Heidelberg scars: they’re, well, icky. It’s the difference between an eyepatch (really cool) and a colostomy bag (really not.) Or maybe a wooden leg and a trachiotomy, or something.

I’ve got bright pink marks

My friend Genevieve Futrelle

My friend Genevieve Futrelle has posted pictures from her new tiny snapshot camera, forty bucks’ worth of cheap, web-friendly image capture. I was astonished by her picture of three ladies on the subway train — evocative of “Wise Blood” and Duane Hansen sculpture, with frozen gazes trisecting the frame.


I wished I had a little Blog camera for the ride home this evening. Weeknight Amtrak trains are all garmentos and commuters; the Friday night train is filled with civilians. Tonight, the four facing chairs across the aisle displayed an Allegory of Youth and Age: an elderly man in his seventies sat sunk in slumber, his spotty hands resting on his knees, his chin on his breastbone and his hair awry. Across from him, knees touching, a pair of teenagers were heaped in a pile – the girl sprawling across her boyfriend’s lap, knees apart, tight green shirt rucked up past her stomach, emitting an adolescent cloud of unfocused sexual energy. The boyfriend was wearing a rubber Yoda mask, and all three were fast asleep. Ex Amtrak semper aliquid novi.

My friend Genevieve Futrelle

Kate is taking my last

Kate is taking my last name when we get married, which to me seems kind of wonderful and scandalous at the same time, as if on visiting the Topkapi palace in Istanbul you find that they roll out the red carpets and rename it for you.


It also occurred to me that, on the file card at the veteranarian’s office, the cat’s name will change from “Squeaky Smith” to “Squeaky Young”, losing some alliterative panache in the process. Having a cat named after me, however, is wonderful but not scandalous. It makes me feel like an old-testament patriarch, with tents and camels and a cat with my name on it.


Tell that to the cat, of course, who is perfectly happy to accept food from me but otherwise regards me as a sort of tolerated roomate.

Kate is taking my last

Well, my mom thought the

Well, my mom thought the story below was hilarious, never having heard it, and has urged me to ask my dad about the time he showed up at his dad’s office at seventeen years old, carrying a silver-tipped walking stick, and the story of how he arrived for his first day at Harvard in a white linen suit. I seem to remember the white linen suit story; apparently, the amused upperclassmen, like the jaded Yalies in a Dink Stover story, carried the young swell’s trunks up to his room for him. But he’ll tell the story better, I’m sure.


Here’s the walking stick story, just arrived:


SUBJECT: Not to Worry

No word of my Welsh son ever got back to me. This is probably an
appropriate moment to tell you that, in one of my own experiments in changed
identity, I once went into town brandishing Grandfather Howell’s walking
stick and even visited my father’s office with it. God only knows what I
thought I was doing and why my father didn’t whack me with it. I was probably
posing as an English literary club man (a Drone who’d actually read a book) or
perhaps a boulevardier out of Stendhal or Balzac. On the streets of
Philadelphia in the 1950s you can be sure I was an anomaly.

NB: “Grandfather Howell” was Lardner Howell, my great-grandfather, who was described by my grandfather Young, his son-in-law, as a “howling swell” and a “triple-jointed ball of fire.” My grandfather Young, in turn, was a member of Philadelphia’s First City Troop, and wore a cavalry saber on ceremonial occasions. And that’s not to mention his father, Brigadier General Charles Duncanson Young, who was fond of having his portrait taken in his regimental puttees, so I guess I come by it honestly.

Well, my mom thought the

Most Embarassing Things I’ve Done,

Most Embarassing Things I’ve Done, Part I

Okay, so I figure this is a good use of a Blog: posting the most embarassing things I’ve done, one at a time. It’s congruent with the whole public/private nature of a Blog, and it’s probably more interesting reading than what I did at work today. Okay, deep breath, here goes:


When I was seventeen or so (oh, please God don’t let me have been any older than that), I worked during the three-week winter vacation from Westtown at the Fabric Workshop, a nonprofit textile art gallery in Philadelphia. I helped the Fabric Workshop get ready for their big gala parties by gluing gilding to warehouse walls, picking up 55-gallon drums of glitter, making and collating invitation labels, etc. The work was fun, the atmosphere was congenial, and there were a couple of young artists and seamstresses there that I had a crush on.


Which might have been why I spent the entire three weeks speaking in a fake British accent.


Did anyone catch on? I didn’t think so at the time: nobody knew me there, they must have thought I was some interesting transfer student or something, killing time between terms. Of course, I didn’t take into account the fact that everyone there knew my dad, since he was high school buddies with the workshop’s founder and was the president of the board.


Which might have explained why Christina, the artist I had a crush on, asked me where my accent was from. “It’s Welsh!” I said. “Are you from Wales?” “No, I, uh… had a Welsh roommate for a year!”


The hell of it was, I wasn’t embarassed at the time, but Lordy am I ever mortified now. Especially because I still occasionally run into people I met there, people that first met me when I was spouting a bastardized patois cobbled together from Monty Python and David Niven movies.

Most Embarassing Things I’ve Done,

UWG LOAN PROGRAM FINDS ITS

UWG LOAN PROGRAM FINDS ITS CALIBAN

wait for this one to load, it's worth it.The Ultimate Water Gun has had a busy spring this year — so far, it’s been to Seaworld San Antonio, had an article written about it in the Houston Chronicle, and is currently on loan to a Methodist youth minister. The Ultimate Water Gun Loan Program allows those whose cause is worthy to borrow the gun, promising to send back pictures on its return.


The requests are reviewed by the Ultimate Water Gun Council of Elders, who help me review the heartfelt pleas that come in, ranging from the mild and milquetoast-y to the borderline felonious. The Elders and I got a request from a young punk in Salem, Virginia named Jeremy Justice, who fulfilled all the five-star requirements for a borrower — megalomaniacal tendencies, Sex Pistols lyrics (Jeremy, in fact, composed his own song), the whole nine yards. You can see his request here.


The elders were unsure, however, if Jeremy would follow through, send pictures, and return the gun, so we set him a challenge:


Jeremy, your request pleases and intrigues the elders. You seem to be a warrior born, with a preternatural sense of adventure. But we feel a test is necessary. Seeing as most Gorgons are long dead and buried, your test will be one of steely-eyed humility. Go at once to your local Hecht�s department store and proceed to the �Women�s Intimate Apparel� section. There, you must don their finest chiffon robe and/or camisole (pink preferably). You must then parade around like a ninny and send the Council documentation of said event. Once done, the UWG will be yours to do with as you please. Your enemies will quake and your friends will stand in awe of you majesty. So, make haste, young Jeremy. The Council awaits proof of your mettle.


Suffice it to say that Jeremy came through in style — capering in JC Penney’s, humping the mannequins in Hecht’s, bothering the salespeople while arrayed in chiffon, following the pretty girls, dropping trou on his truck. I, and all the other members of the UWG Council of Elders, expect great things from Jeremy Justice’s tenure as the keeper of the gun.


Check out Jeremy’s trip to the mall >>

UWG LOAN PROGRAM FINDS ITS